Health watchdog to discuss Friarage A&E closure

The Friarage Hospital.

North Yorkshire’s health watchdog will meet today to review plans for changes to critical care services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

These changes will lead to patients in the area who need specialty and critical care being sent to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

The changes to critical care, which come into effect from March 27, have been triggered by concerns about patient safety as a result of shortages in senior clinical and consultant cover, particularly in anaesthesia.

North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee was alerted to the staffing issues back in the summer of 2017 but no solution to the workforce shortages has been found, despite the efforts of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that runs the Friarage.

“The concern is that these temporary changes, triggered by patient safety concerns, become permanent changes, as we have seen in the past”, said county councillor Jim Clark, scrutiny of health committee chair.

“Our committee members understand that the NHS in the North of England suffers from shortages of key staff, particularly consultant anaesthetists and we have been kept fully informed of the extensive work that has been done by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to support critical care services at the Friarage.

“In the short term, the situation was managed through rota changes, locums and short term contracts but this has not been sustainable.

“The committee will be interested to hear what the long term plan is and when the critical care services and interventions will be returned to the Friarage.”

The committee will be told that 90% of patients will be unaffected by the planned changes. Members will also be told that considerable investment has gone into the Friarage over the past 18 months with the opening of a range of new services and facilities, including: the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre; a Black Out Service; extended ward visiting hours; and a state-of-the-art eye scanner.

County councillor Jim Clark, said: “This is clearly a very difficult time for the NHS locally, regionally and nationally.

“Financial pressures and workforce shortages are forcing changes to be made, which would otherwise not happen.

“In the past week, I have also been informed that breast oncology outpatient services at Scarborough Hospital are being closed to new referrals and that GPs in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby will no longer be contracted to provide enhanced minor injury services.”